Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Trump Seeks to End Climate Action in America

On March 28th 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) that represents his most significant and far-reaching attack against climate action to date. His new EO is directed at the Environmental Protection Agency and to a lesser extent the Department of Interior. The EO seeks to do away with the Clean Power Plan, methane regulations, mining restrictions on federal land, and emissions reductions efforts in the federal government.

Just before signing the EO Trump did what he does best, he lied. First by extolling the virtues of "clean coal" and then by suggesting that his EO will result in jobs for coal miners. There is no such thing as clean coal and there is no market demand and therefore there are no jobs for miners.

Grist quotes an official as saying, the White House will direct government agencies to root out "all rules, all policies, and guidance documents that serve as obstacles or impediments to domestic energy production."

Make no mistake about it this is an all out multi-front attack on anything resembling climate action. As reported in Mother Jones, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) called Trump's actions "a declaration of war on American leadership on climate change and our clean energy future." 

It would seem that Trump is intent on eradicating President Barack Obama’s climate-change legacy. However, Trump's most recent assaults on climate action and environmental protections should not come as a surprise.  Thinking people knew the darkness that Trump's electoral victory augured for the planet.

Trump made his contempt for environmental and climate regulations clear. During the campaign he repeatedly promised to dig for coal, frack for gas and drill for oil. Shortly after being sworn in as President, Trump issued an order to move forward with the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and The Keystone XL pipeline (KXL).

This most recent EO is entirely consistent with Trump's budget, and his decision to drop vehicle mileage standards.  His method was on display in his first address to Congress, Trump thrives on doublespeak and subterfuge.

Trump repeatedly said that he would do away with regulations during the campaign and he signaled that he was going to make good on his intentions right after taking the oath of office. He quickly declared war on the EPA and then he nominated a climate denier and industry advocate by the name of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. The new chief administrator's emails revealed that he is an anti-regulation industry lobbyist. Shortly after being confirmed Pruitt began to dismantle the agency he was tapped to lead.

Than there is Trump's nomination of former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State. This is a man who has equivocated on climate change in Senate nomination hearings. He is also someone who would desperately like to remove sanctions against Russia so that Putin and Exxon can proceed to remove a half trillion dollars of oil in the Russian Arctic.

The GOP's environmental assault began in early February when they began gutting environmental protections and transparency.  Republicans even put forward a bill designed to kill the EPA, they are also working to sell off public lands and strip federal agencies of power.

Here is a summary of what Americans stand to lose with Trump's new EO:
  • Emissions rules for existing power plants (Clean Power Plan).
  • Carbon standards for new power plants.
  • Methane regulations in the oil and gas industry.
  • Mining restrictions on federal land (moratorium on federal coal leasing).
  • The consideration of climate mitigation strategy and the national security risks of global warming in federal departments.
  • Consideration of climate change when federal agencies analyze environmental permits (NEPA reviews).
  • The cost of carbon to guide government actions and justify climate regulations.
  • the Interior Department to rewrite a 2015 rule, currently stayed.
  • Restrictions on hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands.
  • The Climate Action Plan.
  • Reduced CO2 emissions in federal agencies.
  • Stronger community resilience to climate impacts.
There will be legal challenges and some of the moves called for in the EO, like killing the Clean Power Plan, will take years.

Nonetheless, the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth has enacted a policy shift bereft of scientific guidance or economic sense. This will most certainly mean that the US will blow past its climate reduction targets and other nations may see it as an example that they will follow. Generations to come will rue this president and his policies will be viewed as the reason we were not able to avert a climate catastrophe.

Trump has kept his promise, in fact his war on climate action may be the only promise he is able to keep.

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